Inside the 908th: Aerospace Medical Service Specialists – critical care on land or in air

  • Published
  • By Maj. John T. Stamm
  • 908th Airlift Wing

The hundreds of medical facilities the Air Force has around the world are only as good as the Airmen who work in them. These highly skilled professionals supply critical support and are valuable members of any healthcare team.

Providing essential care in multiple medical roles, aerospace medical service specialists, Air Force specialty code 4N0X1, assist doctors and care for patients in a wide range of situations from administering immunizations to assisting in aeromedical evacuations.

Aerospace medical service specialists are responsible for providing medical care and support to aircrew and other personnel involved in aerospace operations, performing pre-flight and post-flight medical evaluations, treating injuries and illnesses, and providing emergency medical care. They also provide advice and guidance on issues related to aerospace medicine such as altitude physiology, hypoxia, G-forces, and other environmental factors that can affect aircrew performance and health.

It's important to note that depending on their specific responsibilities, an aerospace medical service specialists may work in an aircraft or on the ground in a hardened hospital or in an austere or bare-base environment. In general, they're considered part of the nursing team, but their duties can be numerous and varied. 

“We [4N0X1] all go through the same initial course at Fort Sam Houston in Texas to earn our [Emergency Medical Technician] certification,” said Senior Airman Tyson Eggleson, 908th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron flight medical technician. “From there you may work at a military treatment facility or at an (aeromedical) staging squadron. Sometimes you get assigned special duty to an aircrew as an evacuation technician or a hyperbaric chamber technician.”

Serving as members of primary emergency medical response to in-flight emergencies and potential mass casualty situations and incidents, aerospace medical service specialists provide medical care in contingency operations and disasters.

Whether in the field, in the clinic, or aboard an aircraft, they perform life support and triage in emergency situations, evaluate patient conditions, assist in the development of care plans, load and unload litter patients, and augment search and rescue missions.

Airmen in this career field may lead training exercises for other personnel, including basic life support, periodic disaster training, fire drills and evacuation procedures.  They may also operate emergency medical and other vehicles, assemble, operate, and maintain therapeutic equipment, and dispose of medical waste.

A typical day for a 4N0X1 may involve managing patient care from admission to discharge, managing patient records, and performing portions of medical treatment, diagnostic, and therapeutic procedures. They care for and report on injured and seriously or critically ill patients, recording treatments, procedures rendered and observed effects.

To become an aerospace medical technician, applicants must have a minimum Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery score of 50 on the General section and be physically able to routinely lift 40 pounds. Applicants must between 17-42 years of age, possess a high school diploma, a graduate equivalency degree, or 15 college semester hours, and have normal color vision.

“If you seek fulfillment, you’ll find it here,” Eggleson said. “All Air Force jobs impact others, but we sometimes deal with life and death and in some of those situations you are somebody’s only hope.  For me, it’s the best job in the Air Force.”